Guv to IATF: Place Talisay on GCQ

AS THERE were recorded recoveries in the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in Talisay City, Cebu, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia will seek to revert the city’s modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status to the relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) status.

The governor announced her decision during a meeting with mayors, health officials and representatives of government agencies at the Capitol in Cebu City on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr. said the city had recorded 50 persons who recovered from Covid-19 as of June 17.

However, when the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases announced the quarantine statuses of all local government units on June 16, it mentioned that Talisay City, Cebu had zero recovery cases.

This announcement baffled Gullas, who was told by IATF chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez that the data came from the Department of Health (DOH).

Among the Wednesday meeting attendees was DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas. He said it had been discussed with the IATF that Talisay City had 16 recoveries. He could not explain why the IATF reported last Monday that there were no recoveries in the city.

“We were all really surprised by the pronouncement. But it had already been pronounced, so we will deal with it,” Bernadas said.

Discrepancies

Bernadas’ colleague at the DOH 7, who refused to be named, said there could have been discrepancies in the DOH 7’s counting of recoveries in Talisay City.

The DOH 7 worker said the agency is dependent on the reports coming from the local government units, including confirmed Covid-19 cases in isolation centers in barangays.

As of Tuesday, June 16, records from the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the DOH 7 showed that there were 16 recoveries from Talisay City.

The Tuesday data released by Gullas showed that Talisay had 43 recoveries. This shows the coordination between the DOH 7 and local health offices are not real-time.

Talisay City’s MECQ status started on June 16 and it will end on June 30.

In the same 15-day window, Cebu Province retains its GCQ status. The province’s 38 municipalities and five component cities (Bogo, Carcar, Danao, Naga and Toledo) are on GCQ status too.

Bernadas said the original recommendation of the regional IATF was to place the whole Cebu Province under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) except the towns of Consolacion and Minglanilla and City of Talisay. It was recommended that the three local government units be placed under GCQ.

The jurisdiction of the Cebu Provincial Government does not include the cities of Cebu, LapuLapu and Mandaue. The IATF returned Cebu City to ECQ from GCQ, while the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu also retained their GCQ status until June 30.

In ECQ and MECQ statuses, public transport is not allowed, and everyone is required to stay home. Public transport and limited gatherings are allowed in GCQ and MGCQ statuses.

IATF Reply

Garcia could get a reply from the IATF on Friday, June 19—the same date that the appeal of Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella to keep the city’s GCQ status will be tackled.

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary for operations Epimaco Densing III said when the IATF discussed the reclassification of Cebu City, the reasons behind the spike of Covid-19 cases were not tackled.

Labella filed an appeal to keep Cebu City’s GCQ status by correcting some “inaccurate” facts gathered by the IATF and reasons behind the sharp spikes of Covid-19 cases.

In a virtual presser on Wednesday held by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, Densing said the original proposal for Cebu City was to reclassify it to MECQ from GCQ because of the spike in Covid-19 cases.

Densing is chairman of the IATF screening and validation committee, which determines the community quarantine classification of regions, provinces, independent and component cities and highly urbanized cities.

During the June 15 IATF meeting, Densing recalled that Galvez and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año asked for the number of Cebu City’s Covid-19 cases.

No improvement

The IATF saw the city’s case doubling time was maintained at 6.63 percent. There was no improvement, although lower than the standard of seven days, Densing said.

He said what placed Cebu in a very critical position was the city’s critical care utilization rate that increased from 49 percent on June 10 to 57 percent on June 14.

“Mechanical ventilators were at 87 percent utilized; isolation facilities were at 83 percent utilized. In other words, they (hospitals) were almost hitting 100 percent of their capacity, which made their position very critical,” he said.

Fearing second wave Densing said the IATF leadership feared that if the spread of the virus would not be contained, it might cause a second wave and a great epidemic.

“Let’s put (them under) ECQ. Lock them down just so the virus will not spread,” Densing said.

Densing also pointed out that Galvez in his visit to Cebu City last week had personally observed several persons were not practicing the minimum health standards such as wearing of masks and practicing physical distancing. Galvez even saw several Cebuanos eat in buffet style.

Labella’s appeal Labella, in the same virtual presser, informed Densing that he had filed an appeal on IATF’s ECQ classification of Cebu City.

Densing assured the mayor that his committee would look into the data and arguments presented in the appeal.

Testing backlogs

Labella told Densing that in the past weeks the number of Covid-19 cases increased because the results came from backlogs in the testing of samples.

Densing said the issue on sample testing’s backlogs was not mentioned in the IATF meeting.

He said Labella’s perspective could well be true on the spike of 400 Covid-19 cases from June 10 to June 14.

The results of positive cases came from tests that had been done more than seven days prior.

Labella also clarified that some inputs given to the IATF were not correct, especially on the matter of critical utilization rate.

He pointed out that the public and private hospitals in Cebu City did not only accept patients from Cebu City but also from the rest of Cebu province and neighboring island provinces of Central and Eastern Visayas.

The mayor said Cebu City had prepared isolation centers for positive asymptomatic patients and quarantine facilities for mild to moderate cases as early as March so as not to overwhelm the private hospitals.

Cebu City has 52 barangay isolation centers with 2,896 beds. As of June 15, the occupancy was at 1,052.

For the mild to moderate cases, the City established three quarantine centers with a capacity of 338 beds.

As of Wednesday, the centers only had 87 occupants.

Businesses’ ordeal Virgilio Espeleta, economic development chairman of the Regional Development Council 7, showed concern on Cebu City’s return to ECQ status.

He said several business owners and employees were already trying to get the feel of the market during the GCQ period.

Several business owners tried to rebuild their confidence and assess their survivability in the first week.

“In the second week, we saw more businesses taking the risk of reopening despite the poor market spending and confidence and the high rental costs,” said Espeleta, former president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Several businesses have now decided to shut down again as Cebu City is back to the ECQ status.

“It is like an airplane trying to gain momentum in the runway but has to apply a hard stop when it is about to take off.

I am concerned that Cebu, now in the center of media attention, will take a heavy toll with a dampened consumer and investor confidence. We will have to work on it harder,” Espeleta said. / ANV, JJL, MVG, WBS & JOB